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Show Review

In addition to strumming through three songs from his newest album, Smoke And Mirrors, Brett Dennen went on at length about the process by which his latest album was born, the themes that cycle through the song fare, and just how excited he is to hand these songs over to his fans.


- Yeah, I just finished my fifth record.
It feels good.
It's called Smoke and Mirrors.
I'm really excited for the world to hear it.
I've been living with these songs now for almost two years, some songs even more than that.
So I'm ready to get them out there and play.
Wanna feel the sunshine with you By my side I am, I am, I am, I am I am a wild child, momma.
- The first song I played is called Wild Child.
It's mostly just a song for me.
It's just like a personal anthem or a personal motto, you know, mantra.
It's just about staying true to myself, you know.
My whole life, I've felt like the influence of other people.
The time that I wrote the song, I was going through a lot of just...just dealing with a lot of, who am I really, though.
Like I think I know who I am.
Just staying true to myself, you know and just reminding myself to just be who I wanna be and be the best that I can be.
And my hope with that song is that people feel like the same way, you know.
When they hear it or when they sing along to it, that it means the same to them.
I am a wild child, momma You can, you can, you can, you can You can hold me tight if you wanna.
- I was definitely in a more relaxing, easy place while I was writing the record, Smoke and Mirrors.
I was living in the mountains.
And my days were filled with hiking and swimming and songwriting.
Whereas writing Loverboy is much more, you know, faster tempo, upbeat, celebration.
Like for me, at least, like a party, dance record.
When I wrote that record, it's exactly what I wanna do.
Like I wanted to make a record that was aimed at a live show, a high energy live show because I have been playing so many years more of a stripped down folk show.
I was tired of seeing people just standing around.
I wanted to see people move and just go crazy, you know.
And that wasn't the goal for Smoke and Mirrors.
The goal for Smoke and Mirrors was to do something that was just a little bit more relaxing.
Like you say, easy to listen to, a little bit more effortless to listen to.
But ultimately, something that was just a little more personal.
Get outta my head, outta my head, outta my head now Get outta my head, get into my heart.
Without you I do believe I'm homeless And without you, it's true, I'm out of focus Gotta go now, I know now if I can live without you I will Without me... - Out Of My Head, it's in one way, it's a continuation of Wild Child in the sense of just staying true to yourself in that same way.
For me, it's more about even broader, like just living in your heart, you know.
If you get too caught up, in, like how your relationship is going or how you think your life is going or how it should be going as opposed to the way it's going.
And you get taken out of like the bigger picture because you're getting too caught up in the small picture.
That's just, I don't know.
It's more about just remembering to follow your feelings, you know.
And that's what I mean when I say, "Get out of my head, get into my heart.
" So I went up into the mountains and climbed I got away from all the static and the sadness I won't be caught up in that anymore - Ultimately, I'm excited for them to hear the songs 'cause I just think it's a great batch of songs.
Like, I'm not necessarily, like, talking about, like, the production or the way I sing or the way this music is played.
But I just think, like, the lyrics and melody.
I think I have a good batch of songs that are gonna be... Like, I think, with the fans that I've already established, I think there's songs on this record that would be their favorites.
Listen to the river does it make you wonder How anything could ever stand still - Only Want You, yeah.
That's one of the later songs that I wrote for the record.
I'm sure everybody's been to a point in a relationship where things just get complicated and kinda like Out Of My Head.
It's like when things get all complicated and you get caught up in it, that's what I mean by getting caught up in the small picture, you know.
The bigger picture is that, you know, it's all about just loving and being true to who you are and loving, like, selflessly, just doing everything out of love.
So Only Want You is sort of like another reminder to just, in those complicated times or when like you're getting caught up and what it means to relate to another person.
It's just a reminder that we have, like, an amazing connection, first and foremost.
Like, take everything else away.
It's just a reminder that if you can fall in love, then you can fall in love again.
And you can get back to that feeling of, like, when everything is pure and everything is new again.
Yours is the best love It's the best love So pure and so true - Hi, this is Brett Dennen and you're watching Baeble Music.
Only love, my darling Only you

Artist Bio

"It was time to get back to basics." Brett Dennen says of his fifth record, Smoke & Mirrors, out October 22th, 2013. "I wanted to return to the folk and acoustic music I loved when I began writing. I decided to tap into my memories and explore new emotional territory as honestly as I could."

Brett Dennen's music career began humbly around the camps of the Sierra Nevada mountain rangea retreat to which he would eventually return for inspiration on Smoke and Mirrors. "Being in the mountains, aside from the inspiration, was so crucial to me, because as a kid I used to spend so much time in the mountains. And just being there helped me regain that self-confidence. I remembered who I was."

Brett's 2006 release, So Much More, officially launched him as a discovery artist and drew frequent comparisons to troubadours like Paul Simon and Tom Petty. In 2008 his Hope for the Hopeless didn't stray too far from the songwriter's comfort zone, though a partnership with producer John Alagia (Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer) led to a high level of production not yet heard on any of his albums. In 2011, Dennen's Loverboy was his biggest departure to date: a danceable collection of songs influenced by the road and recorded by a studio filled with friends and imperfect takes.

"After several years of consistent recording and touring, some real time off was necessary. I bought a house in the mountains and reconnected with my roots as a songwriter. I walked through the hills, enjoying the solitude, and only wrote when I was inspired."

Returning from his retreat into the mountains, Dennen looked for a collaborator to elevate the songs he'd brought back and landed on renowned producer Charlie Peacock. "Charlie had recently made a beautiful record for The Civil Wars, so he seemed like an ideal producer. We spoke on the phone for just a few minutes and instantly connected. He wanted the recordings to focus on my vocals and acoustic elements. Our goal was to simply enhance the demo and bring them to life."

Dennen and Peacock chose Nashville as a home base, eschewing Brett's L.A. comfort zone to work with virtual strangers. "It was exciting to record with musicians I'd never met. Charlie brought in Mark Hill (Reba McEntire's bass player), Jerry McPherson (guitarist for Faith Hill and Martina McBride), drummer Aaron Sterling who recently worked with Charlie on The Civil Wars record, and Ruby Amanfu (a vocalist in the all-girl Jack White ensemble). Working with new people allows you to explore parts of yourself that might not come out with people you know. You have to stretch a bit, so I let Charlie create an atmosphere that allowed me to be my best self."

Peacock's understated production places Dennen's fervent vocals upfront, while the session players bring their low-key power to the proceedings, adding their own ideas to flesh out the arrangements. Peacock explains, "Brett and I spent a lot of time just building out the arrangements. From the production side, he encouraged me to make every song uniquely its own while keeping it cohesive - and I think we did it."

"Wild Child," the album's lead single, is packed with hooks including a sing-a-long chorus augmented by a bit of George Harrison-style slide guitar. "When We Were Young" has a driving single note rhythm guitar track and a steady backbeat that gives the song a sense of urgency comparable to the work of Don Henley's Building the Perfect Beast. An R&B flavored acoustic guitar hook introduces "Don't Mess With Karma," a topical song about the right to marriage, which condenses the ups-and-downs of a human life into five concise verses interspersed with jazzy electric guitar and Peacock's church organ amplifying its soulful message. "Only Want You" is a love song about going through a rough patch in a relationship; acoustic guitar, subtle mandolin, an almost whispered vocal and a hint of reggae give the tune a gentle lilt. It has a simple message: remember why you're in love and don't get caught up in the things that can distract you from that strong connection.

"Charlie had a master plan and assured me the music would sound good if I just relaxed and became myself. He told me to have faith in the process and let things unfold beautifully, and they did."

"I called the album Smoke and Mirrors, because one of the major themes of the album, lyrically, is that things aren't exactly as they appear to be. If you focus on how you think things should be, then you can't see them for what they really are."



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